Colorado Rights Blog


  • Cedric Watkins is a father, uncle, entrepreneur-in-training, and a vital community pillar for many others. While behind bars, he has tirelessly devoted himself to serving his peers and his community. He developed gang disaffiliation programs for other incarcerated individuals and is currently involved with Defy Ventures. He sends letters and calls his daughter as much as he can.

    Cedric is currently in prison at Sterling Correctional Facility. He was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping, theft and sentenced to 80 years; no one was seriously injured or killed. For comparison, a person convicted of second-degree murder in Colorado faces a maximum sentence of 48 years. Cedric has already served 20 years and has fully rehabilitated during that time.

    It’s time to bring Cedric home: Redemption is real. Clemency is compassion.

  • On November 21, 2016, 13 Aurora police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at Alberto Torres’s home. As happens all too often, Aurora police officers escalated this minor issue into a brutal affair. They beat Mr. Torres solely because he delayed exiting his garage to ask his wife to interpret for him. With that beating, the lives of Mr. Torres and every member of his family were changed and he has yet to recover. ACLU of Colorado fought to obtain justice for Mr. Torres, and Aurora has now paid him $285,000. But money is not justice, and the brutality of the Aurora Police Department against people of color has continued unabated.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Imagine, if instead of 13 officers being dispatched to Mr. Torres’s home for a noise complaint, the City of Aurora sent a civilian-led response team to check on his welfare and ask that he and his friends lower their sound, resulting in a non-violent solution to a minor issue?

    ACLU Settles Case With Aurora After Police Brutalize and Unlawfully Arrest Alberto Torres

  • Hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment that together, we can create a more perfect union. We won’t rest until we fulfill the promise of equal rights for ALL people in the United States.

    Join us in our fight to fulfill this promise and move forward with hope by donating to the ACLU of Colorado. Your donation supports the ACLU’s strengths that make our work effective and collaborative.

    Donate now at

  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

ACLU of Colorado settles lawsuit asserting prisoner

For the first time in 15 years, Colorado death-row prisoner Nathan Dunlap will have the opportunity to exercise regularly in an area that is open to the sky and the elements, pursuant to a settlement of Mr. Dunlap’s lawsuit against the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) announced by the ACLU of Colorado today.

“Depriving Mr. Dunlap of fresh air, sunshine, and outdoor exercise for 15 years is cruel and unusual punishment,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “The Constitution requires prisons to provide for basic human needs, and courts have consistently required access to fresh air and sunshine along with food, clothing, shelter, safety, and medical care.”

The ACLU lawsuit relied on a 1999 ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which held that “even a convicted murderer who had murdered another inmate and represented a major security risk was entitled to outdoor exercise.” Perkins v. Kansas Department of Corrections, 165 F.3d 803, 810 (10th Cir. 1999).

As a matter of policy, the Colorado DOC automatically assigns death-sentenced prisoners to administrative segregation, the highest-security classification, which critics refer to as solitary confinement. Until now, the DOC also required that death-sentenced prisoners be assigned to the state’s dedicated “supermax” prison, Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP), where all 734 prisoners are isolated, locked down 23 hours a day, and denied outdoor exercise. At CSP, prisoners’ only opportunity for out-of-cell recreation is one hour in a separate concrete-walled cell that contains a pullup bar.

Prison officials usually maintain that with good behavior, “supermax” prisoners can earn their way to general population facilities, where prisoners can go outdoors and enjoy additional privileges. Mr. Dunlap, however, was not confined to “supermax” because of any violent or disruptive conduct in prison. Despite his good behavior in “supermax,” he was not eligible to “earn” his way out, because DOC policy assigned death-sentenced prisoners to CSP.

Mr. Dunlap filed a lawsuit and acted as his own attorney until ACLU Cooperating Attorney Gail Johnson took over the lawyering early last year.

Under the terms of the settlement, Mr. Dunlap has been moved from CSP to the Sterling Correctional Facility, where he will still be held in solitary confinement, but he will have the opportunity to exercise five days a week in an area open to the sky and elements that is twice as large as the exercise rooms at CSP that Mr. Dunlap has been forced to use for 15 years. The DOC also chose to transfer the two other Colorado death row inmates to the Sterling Correctional Facility.

“To settle this case, the DOC agreed to move Mr. Dunlap to the administrative segregation unit at Sterling, where he will be entitled to regularly exercise in areas that are open to the sky, the sun, and the elements,” said ACLU Cooperating Attorney Johnson. “Mr. Dunlap is glad to finally have the opportunity once again to breathe fresh air and feel the sun on his skin during his limited out-of-cell exercise time.”

“While this settlement resolves Mr. Dunlap’s legal claims, it also underscores a continuing and unresolved issue: hundreds and hundreds of prisoners at Colorado State Penitentiary continue to endure 23-hour-a-day lockdown year in and year out.” Silverstein said. “Long-term deprivation of outdoor exercise violates the Constitution. While DOC claims that prisoners can shorten their ‘supermax’ confinement, the truth is that the slightest infraction or negative report by a staff member keeps them there. Many have been warehoused in solitary confinement since CSP opened in the early 1990s.”

Return to News